Facebook extends Trump ban until 2023, but that is not nearly enough

by David Zurawik

Facebook extended the ban on former President Donald Trump from its platform until 2023, the social media giant announced Friday. It is, according to Facebook, the toughest sanction it can apply under its current rules.

That might sound tough, but is it really enough given the perilous moment our democracy now finds itself in thanks in large part to Trump’s refusal to accept the results of the 2020 presidential election and his false claims of voter fraud? The answer is no.

The ban, which also keeps Trump off Instagram, initially went into effect Jan. 7, the day after the attack on the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters. It will come up for reconsideration on Jan. 7, 2023, according the decision announced Friday. The attack followed a rally filled with inflammatory rhetoric from Trump urging those in the crowd to march on the Capitol and “fight like hell.” The conflict that followed led to five deaths.

In announcing the original ban, which was then for two weeks, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Trump used the platform to “incite violent insurrection against a democratically elected government.”

So, why would you ever let someone who used your creation to incite violence against the government back on? And with the ban up for reconsideration by Facebook in January 2023, why would you leave the door open for him to possibly be sowing more discord and lies among your tens of millions of followers during the 2024 presidential campaign? If this seditious action by a then sitting president is not enough for a lifetime ban, what is?

This is not about liking or disliking Trump. This is about the damage that has already been done to democracy and the grave danger we now face as a nation because of Trump’s media lies. It’s a threat, by the way, that far too many people don’t seem to get even as we get new intimations of danger every day.

As desperately shocking as images of that bloody insurrection were to some of us, we have a Senate that voted not to investigate how it happened and who was involved. We have a retired general and former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, suggesting at a right-wing gathering last week that a military coup, which would put Trump back in office, might be a good thing. (He has since tried to walk it back without much luck.) And we have Trump using every media moment he gets to keep spreading the Big Lie that he won the November election and it was stolen from him.

In a statement issued by his office Friday, Trump called Facebook’s decision an “insult” to the millions who voted for him.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing, and ultimately, we will win. Our country can’t take this abuse anymore!” he added.

David Zurawik is The Baltimore Sun’s media critic.